#LGBTHM17

LGBT Q&A with VP Communities Jess Logan: “I still don’t quite have a label for who I am”

pride-jess

Credit: Jess Logan

Answers by Jess Logan
Interview by Stuart Graham
A special thanks to Ryan Louis Peteranna for transcribing the interview

Q: At what age did you first come to terms, or at least become aware, of your LGBT identity?

A: This is actually a really good story because [I’m from a] very conservative family, never really aware that ‘gay’ was a thing but when I was younger, I was kind of like, “Hmm, I am attracted to women, I am attracted to men; maybe everybody’s just attracted to everybody but you can only marry the ‘opposite gender'”, because that’s what I was aware of at the time. In high school, my friend came out when she was about 14 as lesbian. I was like, right, cool, and then I started questioning my own sexuality, being like: “Am I straight?” So, I think maybe about 15, 16 was when I started being aware of my queerness. Still don’t quite have a label for who I am but that’s kind of where I came into it.

Q: Can you talk me through the mindset of young Jess when your friend had just come out? What was going on in your little noggin?

A: I’d kind of started becoming aware of this sort of queer culture and my friend came out and, straight away, people were homophobic to her and I was like: “This is not OK. I love her.” I nearly beat someone up because of it. ‘Quiet Jess’; everybody was very shocked when I suddenly had someone pinned against a wall. I couldn’t tell you when I suddenly was like, ‘gay is OK’, but it just kind of happened that I was like: “No, I must defend my friend from people being assholes.”

Q: So, it was friendship first before the LGBT movement?

A: Yeah, definitely.

Q: And you kind of touched on it but were there any external conflicts that made you feel like, “OK, I might be feeling this way but I can’t voice this”?

A: Yeah, definitely. Still not really out to my family as such. I’m out to my mum and my sister but my stepdad is very conservative and probably wouldn’t really understand, especially when I am — it’s never really affected me, where my long-term relationship at the moment has been with a man, so it’s not something that’s had to come up, so I’m like: “Oh, I’ll just not mention it”. But there are so many times where you’ll just hear little things, being like, “gay is not OK”, and you’re like, “Oh, OK. Oh, that’s me. Oh, fantastic.”

Q: That leads quite well into the next question. Would you say because you’re currently in a long-term heterosexual relationship, you’re quite often pigeonholed into being viewed as straight?

A: I don’t know if it is because I talk about LGBT rights so much, I think people automatically assume it’s a gay thing, so there’s a lot of me very much defending my bisexuality, pansexuality, whatever it is, against people who probably don’t even have a problem with it, because it’s probably me internalising things, being like: “Oh, God, urgh, what have I done?” Being like: “No, I definitely am this. I always have been.”

Q: Are there any times, or have there ever been any times, where you genuinely believed you weren’t LGBT, since the realisation? Have you ever been like, “oh, that’s gone away now”?

A: No, actually, never. There’s been times where I’ve been like, “oh, maybe I’m a lesbian, maybe I am pansexual”, so, since 15, 16, I have been like — I’m somewhere on the queer spectrum but trying to place myself somewhere on there has been the challenge.

Q: Are there any non-sexual things you do in your day-to-day life, or infrequently, that you feel make you feel you’re quite LGBT?

A: My Doc Martins? I don’t know. I’m definitely very fem, which is probably not the traditional opinion of stereotypes. But even just the way you dress, you’re like: “Oh, do I look a bit queer today?” There’s little things that you do that make you want to show yourself as queer. And, being vegetarian, that’s such a gay thing.

Q: Would you say, as a queer person, you seek out a lot more queer media?

A: Yeah, I do get a lot more excited — I remember when Orange Is the New Black came out. I was so excited about queer romance being represented and before I was really aware of watching things online, it wasn’t something that I actively sought, but now it is. If I hear that a show has really good queer representation, I’m way more likely to watch it, as long as it’s a good show as well.

Q: Would you say that, because we actively seek it out as queers, would you say there’s enough exposure to it to people who don’t seek it out, but should maybe have it placed in front of them?

A: Definitely not. It is a lot more — Netflix are quite good, so I guess a lot more people are on Netflix, but you don’t really see it as much on traditional TV channels and particularly — I love animation and cartoons, which is getting a lot better, like Steven Universe and stuff, but it’s not as ‘in your face’ as, maybe, these hipster shows that I actively seek out.

Q: I spent a lot of time looking for queer manga and kind of fell into an accident of queer erotica manga, and I was like: “Oh, that’s a thing that’s just going to be for me later.” Very strange. Were there any LGBT figures in your early life, aside from your best friend, from being born until you were 12? Did you have any role models that you were like: “Oh, I really like this person. Oh, they’re queer; does that change my opinion of them?”

A: Absolutely none, weirdly enough. There might have been people that were that I never knew about but I had a very conservative childhood, I wasn’t exposed to it at all. I didn’t even know it was a real thing until I was about 10, so I had none of that growing up, which is a shame. I wish I had.

Q: Is there a word within the whole LGBT+ acronym you feel describes your identity?

A: I’d probably go with ‘pansexual’. I don’t know; there’s a lot of overlap between pansexual and bisexual. But, particularly with gender being smashed and all of that, I’d definitely go with, like, “don’t really care about gender, just love the person, like the person”. So pansexual.

Q: Would you say you live quite openly as a member of the LGBT community?

A: For the most part, yeah. I definitely don’t try and hide it. Again, obviously, because I am in a ‘straight’ relationship, I’m not as open as you would see but I do talk about it a lot. I want people to know that it is OK and I think just talking about your old experiences or current experiences kind of just normalises it all.

Q: As VP Communities, do you feel like you’re doing enough to push equality?

A: Good question. We definitely try. Our ‘equal opportunities’ is everywhere. We try and make people know. We try and have equalities groups but again, I don’t know why, it never gets much attention. Like our ‘Equality Zone’; I used to go to all of them; I don’t know why everybody else doesn’t. So, we’re trying, probably not hard enough, but, with limited resources, I’d say people are doing OK. I know on a personal level, they’re all quite supportive of it. It’s just, maybe, a big campaign would be quite nice.

Q: In terms of gendered toilets, there are ones within the uni that are gender-neutral and can be accessed by both, but do you think we’ll ever reach a day where there won’t be signs on toilets?

A: I’m quite optimistic, so — probably not in the next 20 years but after that, I definitely think we are moving more towards that. There are even places now where it is just ‘Toilet’, so I’m seeing a progression. It’s going to take a while but I think very soon in the history of forever, then, yes.

Q: Do you feel like there’s a stigma, or reputation, of some branches of the LGBT community that you either have to conform to or not be considered a member of? It maybe links in with the whole being in a heterosexual relationship [thing] — maybe [you’ve] had some queers scoffing at you.

A: Definitely. Obviously, bisexuality and biphobia is a massive part of the LGBT movement at the moment. There is so much, “Oh, you’ve had a penis; that means you’re not a gold star lesbian”, that sort of thing, which is such crap; it doesn’t really matter. It brings in a lot of transphobia as well; let’s not get onto that. Even at Pride or stuff, I’m way less likely to want to be seen holding hands with my [boyfriend], just so I feel more accepted as part of the LGBT movement, which kind of sucks, because I know myself, and my close friends around me, and probably most people there, know that I am still a part of the community, but you always get that one asshole who’s like, “Be more gay, please.”

Q: What are your thoughts on stereotypes and clichéd ideas people have on certain LGBT identifying people? Is there sometimes a power in a stereotype? Is it a kind of ‘how to’ manual for some people that may be struggling with identity?

A: I hate stereotypes but sometimes, they’re really fun, especially with drag queens, a massive part of our movement. It’s great to see them super fem, just dancing — that’s great but it’s obviously not for everybody. I think, if you’re really comfortable and confident in your sexuality, which doesn’t happen as often as we would like, it is fun to play on these stereotypes to make straight people feel uncomfortable. It’s great craic but I definitely feel like we need to get away from the butch lesbian and the effeminate gay.

Q: How do you personally feel when someone points out that you conform or differ from a stereotype?

A: I don’t know if it is because I have been in so many straight relationships. It is weirdly comforting for people to be like: “Oh, that’s such a girl love girl thing to do.” You’re like: “Oh, is it? I had no idea.” I think it really depends on the stereotype.

Q: Do you feel more drawn to LGBT community members than the more heterosexual conventional members of our society? Do you feel like you socialise more with them intentionally or just by coincidence?

A: We do tend to find each other, so I don’t know if it is intentional. I can tell you that my four friends — I had more friends in high school, but [of] my core four of us, one of us was lesbian, one of us was gay, I was bi and another friend just came out as transgender, so we made the perfect little foursome, but we were all friends before we knew each other as queers, so we knew each other before we were out. We did seem to click before we knew that sort of thing, so I don’t know if the ‘gaydar’ is actually real, but most of my friends are queer, whether that’s through we just automatically have something to bond over or marginalisation – but yeah, I do tend to get on better with LGBT people.

Q: Do you personally feel safe as a member of the LGBT community outside of the kind of university sphere we all ‘queer around’ in?

A: I think there’s a lot of other things that play — I definitely feel a lot safer because I’m white, that sort of thing. I do get nervous but I don’t necessarily feel unsafe. There probably have been times where I’ve been terrified but in my day-to-day, I’d say not so much.

Q: Do you feel like the university and the union provide enough support about keeping safe, both physically and sexually, about members of the LGBT community?

A: No. There’s so much that could be done. I don’t know if it’s stuff the university’s expecting to have been done in high school. Maybe they should know by now but there’s so many people who come here and suddenly, they are free to be themselves, because it is a safe little bubble here, for the most part, so it probably is something that should be looked into.

Q: From your experiences, and hearing other people’s experiences, would you say there’s enough education in schools about queerness?

A: No. I had none. Everything I learnt was from the internet.

Q: So, sex ed, stuff like that — I’ve had a lot of people say that sex ed was non-existent for queer people. It was like: “Penis, vagina, happiness, and everything else is just kind of weird.”

A: Not even when we got to the later stages of high school did we get anything about that. It should have been tackled sooner but you would have expected it by that point in time. It wasn’t that long ago; people would have been a lot more comfortable. I don’t know what it is like now, as that was years and years ago, but there definitely wasn’t anything for us.

Q: Has there ever been a dark time in your life where you’ve just wished you could switch the LGBT off inside you? Not permanently but like a light-switch where you could just not be queer for a few hours, “just to get me through this football game”?

A: For the most part, I am so proud, I am so happy. But definitely [at] family gatherings because, obviously, people aren’t as educated. People don’t know as much. People don’t know what you identify as. And people might say something – not even that bad, like “Oh, that’s so gay”, and then my mum will look at me to be like, “Oh, is that OK?”, and I’ll just be like, “Oh no, I have to speak for my community.” And it is mostly around family [where] you would be like, “Urgh, I don’t really want issues like this coming up.”

Q: Leading on from that, do you often find yourself in confrontations with non-LGBT people, more so than you do with LGBT people? Do you find yourself calling people out a lot, or is it something you try to avoid and be like, “Oh, they will learn”?

A: I’m definitely one for calling people — I try and do it in a nice way. Sometimes, I’m just fed up and I’m like, “No, stop”, but I do find myself correcting people quite a lot. Try and pull them aside and be like, “Hey, what you’ve said isn’t really OK.” I do it loads on the internet. That never ends well. Don’t do it. It always ends badly. Obviously, there is still mass homophobia; we’ve seen that in recent years but it is more so the little things I tend to come across way more. I’ve never found someone who — well, there are people who I’ve probably come across who are like, “gay is a sin”, that sort of thing – but it’s usually just the little microaggressions that I confront, and those people are usually open to learning, so it’s always quite good, yeah.

Q: Do you see yourself being LGBT for the rest of your life?

A: Yes, of course. I think if I was like, “Oh, it’s just a phase”, I would have gotten over it by now, so it’s something that’s so ingrained in my identity that I’ll never lose it.

Q: Describe what pleasures you get from queer culture. You mentioned drag queens and stuff. What is your relationship to queer culture? Because some queer people don’t really subscribe to it at all.

A: I’m a big fan of traditional queer culture, modern queen culture. I just really enjoy it. It is often criticised for being a gay man’s paradise. I don’t know if it’s because I’m really fem that I suddenly subscribe to the glitter and the glitz. That might be where it’s coming from, but I just really embrace it and everybody feels so friendly. It just feels like such a welcoming, wholesome environment.

Q: And do you feel like the LGBT history in Britain, Scotland and the rest of the world has been embraced as much as it should have been?

A: No, it’s not. There’s so much of queer history — I think a lot of straight people want to ignore how awful it used to be. Even if you look at concentration camps in Germany, all the Jewish people got released before the LGBT people because there were still laws against LGBT people at that point. Not saying the Jews shouldn’t have been freed but there’s still little things like that where I’m like, “Yes, you defeated Hitler but you were still really crappy to the LGBT people that were left behind in these concentration camps.” People don’t know about that. So, while they’re embracing ‘look how great we are now’, they’re ignoring the atrocities that they’ve committed in the past.

Q: And would you say LGBT people themselves make enough of an effort to familiarise themselves with history? I’ve said “Christopher Street” to quite a few people. “Where’s Christopher Street?” And they’re not sure. Then I say “Stonewall” and they’re like, “Ah.” But it was maybe bigger than a simple bar.

A: Yeah. Obviously, it’s different. I really embraced queer history. I looked into the Stonewall riots. I looked into the HIV/AIDS epidemic. All really bad stuff. I think it really depends. There’s some people, particularly if they’re part of the community and they’ll have older LGBT people telling them about those times, that’s usually when you end up being more engrossed in it, whereas our group of young people maybe don’t know the history as much, so it really depends.

Thank you very much for talking to us, Jess.

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